What is the largest city in human history to be completely abandoned due to war, natrual disaster, famine, or whatever?
Additionally, which still-existing cities have suffered the greatest population declines since their zeniths?
I ask because New Orleans, LA, which previously had a population of c. 487,000, is now hovering at around 200,000, and I hear tell that that figure might not be sustainable. While I doubt that New Orleans will ever completely disappear, it might never again become its former self.
Perhaps not just what you’re after, as it went through a long period of decline before being abandoned completely, but maybe still worth mentioning: Ephesus .
This “first and greatest metropolis of Asia” had a population of about 500.000 in the year 100 A.D. and was the largest city in Roman Asia and among the largest in the world at that point.
Heck, I’ll just quote Wikipedia here:
“Although sacked by the Goths in 263 CE, Ephesus remained the most important city of the Byzantine Empire after Constantinople in the 5th and 6th centuries. However, sackings by the Arabs in the year 700 and 716 spurred a quick decline: the city was largely abandoned when the harbour completely filled in with river silt (despite repeated dredges during the city’s history), removing its access to the Aegean Sea. When the Seljuk Turks conquered it in 1090, it was a small village. The Byzantines resumed control in 1100 and kept control of the region until the end of the 13th century. After a short period of flourishing under the new rulers, it was definitively abandoned in the 15th century.”
The ancient cities of Antioch, Ephesus, and Carthage reached populations of 350,000 to 500,000. Antioch is now under the city of Antakya, Turkey, but Carthage (in Tunisia) and Ephesus (in Turkey) are ruins. None was radidly abandoned, though.
Cite: J. C. Russell, Late Ancient and Medieval Population (Philadelphia, 1958).
Teotihuacan, north of Mexico City, had an estimated population of 150,000 to 200,000. Just the ruins (mostly of very impressive temples) remains. More to the point of the OP (from Wikipedia):
It is impossible to accurately state the population of Karakorum, the vast tent city that was the capital of the Mongol Empire in the 13th Century, but it must have been huge. As the empire split up the city was abandoned and today even its location is problematical.
Tenochtitlan – one of the largest cities in the world at the time – was destroyed by the Spanish. Another city – now one of the largest in the world – was built on the ruins, but the older city had been forcibly abandoned.
The historic city of Venice (Centro storico) - the bit everyone thinks of as Venice - now only has a local population (ignoring tourists) of around 65,000, down from something like 200,000 at the start of the 20th century.
This is purely my memory, but I recall that Angkor in Cambodia was once estimated to have a population in the neighborhood of a million. Google turns up cites for that figure, but nothing I’d say is authoritative.
I can’t speak for the other cities, but the boundries of the city of St. Louis haven’t changed since the city became independent of St. Louis county in 1876.
Times Beach, Missouri was discovered to be contaminated with dioxin and evacuated in the 1980s. It is now a park, all the structures but one destroyed. However, it only had about 2,000 residents so may not make the cut.
In the case of Buffalo, at least, the surrounding suburbs have absorbed some of the exodus. The population of Erie County has been decreasing, but its been in the ‘about 1 million’ range for the last half-century (census link – '05 pop is 931K )